Alcohol-Facilitated Sexual Assault in Indian Country: Case Study – Navajo Nation

DAVID ADAMS: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is David Adams and I’m the Special Assistant with the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of New Mexico. On behalf of the panel that I’m with, we’d like to thank the Navajo Nation and others that have
gathered to help put on this conference. We really appreciate the invitation and the opportunity to share a case that we had
in the District of New Mexico. I’ve been going to a lot of these conferences, and each one is an opportunity to meet somebody new or to send a message about
the importance of collaboration and working together in alcohol-facilitated sexual assault cases. JEFFERSON JOE: The Navajo Nation reservation is a vast area. There’s seven police districts. Shiprock, unfortunately, with the Criminal Investigations Office–our office— the majority of our cases involve sexual assaults. And I would say eight or nine out of ten, they involve alcohol. DAVID ADAMS: In this particular case we charged 18 USC, 2242 (2)(B), one of many statutes available to charge sexual abuse. JEFFERSON JOE:
Those type of cases are difficult to work, especially if a victim had been drinking and has no knowledge of what took place. Once you start building your case, don’t have any preconceived notions. Either you prove or disprove the allegation. That takes a lot of legwork. In May of 2010, one in three Native American women would be victims of sexual assault. I was one of them. It was the day following my birthday during finals week. I just turned 20 years old and finished up my second year at San Juan College. Most of my friends from high school were still among my close friends at the time, and we decided to continue to celebrate my birthday after I was done with school. It was probably one of my first parties where I actually– I don’t know–I got, I guess, pretty intoxicated. I didn’t want to go home. Stephanie and Dimitri designated a room just for the girls to sleep in, so there were three of us in the room. And throughout the night, you know, other people were still, like, being loud and drinking still. DAVID ADAMS: A lot of the males and one of the females, actually, stayed up until the early hours of 3, 4, 5 a.m., and they continued drinking, drinking a significant amount of alcohol. ALANNA YAZZIE: I woke up and I found a…a man on top of me. I didn’t realize, like,
what was going on at the time, but I just remember the girl sleeping next to me saying, “What the hell are you doing? Get up. Get off of her.” And then I remember the guy getting off of me and pulling up his pants and saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” and walking out of the room. Everybody was shaken up about what happened and we didn’t know
what to do. We were 19, 20 years old, and not being educated about sexual assaults previous to this, you know, we didn’t know what steps to take. But I know that I, you know, I wanted–I needed help, because something had happened to me. And so I called one of my older sisters and I told her what happened. And it was pretty, um, pretty tough to tell somebody, you know, who loves you, like, “This happened to me and I need your help.” JEFFERSON JOE: I get a call from the patrol section saying that there’s a young lady at the medical center in Shiprock, New Mexico, that is alleged to have been a victim of a sexual assault. I meet Alanna, and I immediately notice that she’s in distress, she’s upset, and she’s crying. It’s important to note that, because that’s your foundation as far as the investigation goes. ALANNA YAZZIE: He took pictures and he got my story. JEFFERSON JOE: It’s important to take photos. It shows her demeanor, how she had been crying, and the clothing she
had been wearing during this incident. The image that most of these
sexual assault victims display, and that’s the image
that I’m trying to show people that are going
to be involved with this case later on. I wanted justice to be served, so he directed me to get a SANE exam. I was just, like, shaking and, like, just distraught. It was just so… scary that I couldn’t have the strength to even sit up in a car. We arrived around 11 a.m., and the nurse welcomed me and she, you know,
gave me a tour of the…the facility and she gave me a…a little teddy bear and a blanket. That blanket was definitely comforting. You know, something as insignificant as a blanket could provide comfort for such a tragic event. DAVID ADAMS:
The SANE nurse developed a good rapport with Alanna in a very short amount of time. She did a very extensive exam of Alanna’s entire body, and in order to do that,
she has to ask her a lot of questions about what had happened, and that way she could properly diagnose and treat her, if need be. ALANNA YAZZIE: The day that it happened, I told my family about it and what I was going to do. And I just remember seeing my family’s faces. Everybody just sunk in their seats. And especially my brothers, they… they really had to control their anger. SHARON VANDEVER: I met with Alanna right after the indictment of the case. As soon as charges are filed, I’ll go out and I’ll meet the families in person. I talk to them about what I do, who I am, and what office I represent. What’s happening to them is traumatic, but you, as a victim’s advocate, can make a big difference in a person’s life. In the beginning, for a victim, it’s… it’s really…it’s an emotional roller coaster. They list it all in the pamphlets–like, what happens, like, what kind of emotions you’re… you’re going to be feeling, like depression, flashbacks, terror–night terrors. That happened to me for about 2 weeks. And, you know, I, you know, I was scared. Testimonies, of course, are real crucial, so we need to get statements as soon as possible. You never know, one of
the witnesses might turn on and just say, “Hey, I didn’t see anything, didn’t smell anything, didn’t hear anything.” DAVID ADAMS: We did a warrant and did DNA swabs of the defendant, and they found his DNA inside Alanna Yazzie. JEFFERSON JOE: When it was discovered that Alanna had been assaulted, people started getting mad. And so there were
some telephone texts going on back and forth between Myron Harry and Alanna’s friends indicating that he was sorry for what he did. He’s doing the texting himself, so those texts were a crucial part of the investigation. DAVID ADAMS: We didn’t
allege force in the case because Alanna was passed out and unable to consent or not consent to having any sexual intercourse. Prior to trial, his whole defense was that he never went to that room, never did any acts, never touched her. And obviously when that evidence comes back that his DNA was confirmed to be a match found inside Alanna Yazzie, he no longer could stick with that defense anymore, and he went with the defense that it was consensual and that she wanted it. JEFFERSON JOE: When you get to the trial phase, individuals like Alanna, you know, they’re victims, but they’re not portrayed as victims during trial. Their defense in itself was cruel, because you have somebody who denied ever being involved in this act,
never going into that bedroom. And then all of a sudden you go to a trial and you try to put
all the blame on the victim in the case. As if they’re not going through enough, you add additional trauma and try to put her in the spotlight. Kyle Nayback was the lead counsel on the case, and he was going to be doing the direct examination of Alanna at trial. I would put myself in the shoes of a defense attorney and ask her questions
that would probably be asked at trial, like, “When the defendant walked into that bedroom, you reached up and grabbed him, didn’t you? You wanted this to happen, didn’t you?” ALANNA YAZZIE: I had
to make sure that I had the mindset that, you know, I’m fighting for myself. And I just had to prepare myself for that. SHARON VANDEVER: Bottom line, we always told her, “Make sure you just tell the truth. You were there
that night, you know what happened to you.” And so that was one of the things that we’ve always ensured that she knew, was that that was all we were seeking, was just for her to tell the truth. DAVID ADAMS: The defense attorney did go through all those questions, and Alanna never swayed and fell for any of the tactics that they have, in hoping that they get her to say something that’s probably misrepresented by what a defense attorney is saying to them. ALANNA YAZZIE: I spoke
in front of the judge to let him know, like, how it affected me. This happens all the time to a lot of people. We were able to get him to admit to it. After 4 years, it’s rewarding to see the defendant say, you know, “I did it.” DAVID ADAMS: Myron Harry received around 13 years in prison for what he did. And my hope is that the system works and that he does receive the help that he needs and the rehabilitation
that he needs in the process as well, because 13 years from now–
less than that now–he’ll be getting out and reintegrating back into the community. ALANNA YAZZIE: I don’t think I could have come out of this as strong as I have without support. Jefferson Joe,
Sharon Vandever, Kyle Nayback, and David Adams were the most influential
people in my life during these 4 years because they helped me understand the judicial system and they walked me through everything. It took a lot of strength for me to proceed with it. On the Navajo reservation,
I’ve met so many family members– cousins, sisters, and friends– a lot of them have been sexually assaulted but none of them went forth with it. So I think I was the first
person among the people I knew to actually do something about it. This is a, unfortunately, a nonstop activity, a criminal activity. We need to stop the cycle. DAVID ADAMS: I think that
we all have a responsibility in doing that, so, in turn, we can provide justice in cases like this for Alanna Yazzie and all the Alannas out there.

24 thoughts on “Alcohol-Facilitated Sexual Assault in Indian Country: Case Study – Navajo Nation

  1. I appreciate you Alanna Yazzie for this. I hope and pray people on the Navajo Nation will see and understand that justice can be served and victims deserve to have a peace of mind knowing their perpetrators are held accountable.

  2. You were strong cause you call help. Hope you lager believe a gold relationship.Unfortunatly guys are crazy everywhere.This IS IS ole video,but i sincerely hope that things are better .

  3. If I knew this gentleman in my Navajo reservation neighborhood I myself would smash this dude, if not me one of my other bros would..we don't play that shit up around page az..chomos and sex offenders get smashed on site

  4. Odd that this is so dramatized when promiscuity in the Navajo culture is encouraged and elders and parents condone

  5. Your lucky your attacker is in jail. My 2 rapists are free and one has my kid ive been fighting for with the state. They know he was sexually abused neber did a sane report nothing. Dcf keeps tmy son with him despite years of repeated documented abuse.

  6. I’m glad she got justice, this should also be a lesson, don’t over drink at parties with strangers and don’t fall asleep there

  7. what if she consented before she passed out of being drunk? its still rape? wtf…im not swaying that happened but nowadays there is a fucking witch hunt against men. women need to take responsibility for their actions as well, and not do stupid shit and be irresponsible in the first place . come one, its obvious that something could possibly happen if you mix alcohol with kids partying. use common sense ffs.

  8. Please be careful don't talk to strangers be with people you love family will always be there to help you your very attractive women just be careful what you do your strong and your all heart I maybe a stranger but I'm a gentil man I know my self and I know my heart the kind of man who will always be your friend

  9. Office for Victims of Crime
    are trying to place all the blame on American Indians but do nothing to stop corporations that sell alcoholic beverages from supplying liquor to Indigenous People, and this will never stop until the Government forces companies to a zero tolerance of booze to Natives.

  10. Remember that a great man is being held in prison, but he is the voice of American Indians, and he has been sober for all that time. Free Leonard Peltier!

  11. Alcohol doesn't make men sexually assault women. Stop blaming your failures as human beings on alcohol. Take responsibility for what you are.

  12. For real this girl!? Seriuosly? You know the guy, therefore you went to high school with him and huge PLUS you fucking had a crush on the guy! You knew goddamn well what you got yourself into. Everybody knows you're fucking lying. You took the guy away from his family to cover your crazy ass. Then you have the damn nerve to smirk at his family during the trials, crazy ass b*. How would you handle it if somebody else's dumbass daughter set up your brother, son, uncle and father like you did? You'd feel just as much pain as his family would be feeling everyday he is gone and moments he missed. The truth will come out soon and you will be held accountable to your lies. Your karma will be coming no matter how many ceremonies you get done to avoid it. You can stop brainwashing people you're making yourself look bad enough.

  13. 1. Maybe drinking on a reservation where it is ILLEGAL is a bad idea?
    2. Maybe underage drinking is a bad idea?
    3. Maybe buying alcoholic drinks for your underage sister was a bad idea.
    4. Crying rape doesn’t make up for cheating on your boyfriend…just makes you a shitty person.
    5. She’s acting like she didn’t know the “assailant” when it was her and Demetri who invited him to the “celebration.”
    6. She’s not telling the truth nor is she giving all the facts.
    7. Why aren’t the parents of the 2 children being charged for child endangerment?
    8. Why isn’t the older sister being charged for providing alcohol for a minor, on Navajo land?
    9. It’s not too late to tell the truth.
    10. Must be hard to keep ignoring that guilt…it’s only human.

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